Daily Dose: Now closing, Carlos Marmol

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Carlos Marmol was the most dominant reliever in baseball last year, yet Lou Piniella went with Kevin Gregg at closer to begin the season. Five months later Marmol has issued 52 walks and plunked 11 batters in 56.1 innings, yet Piniella handed him the closer job Tuesday after Gregg predictably struggled while posting a 4.47 ERA and blowing six saves in 29 chances.
Marmol has been nowhere near as good as he was last season because he’s rarely been able to throw the ball over the plate consistently, but remains extremely difficult to hit with 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a .163 opponents’ batting average. He’ll obviously need to stop walking a batter per inning to have success, but he’s just as clearly the Cubs’ best bet for a shutdown guy and Gregg was miscast in the role.
While the Cubs make the correct decision about 120 games too late, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Texas’ vaunted catching depth has been a bust this year, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden have combined for a .664 OPS and Max Ramirez has missed time with a wrist injury at Triple-A. Saltalamacchia is now on the disabled list with an arm injury, so the Rangers’ search for help behind the plate brought them back to the greatest catcher in team history, Ivan Rodriguez.
For the cost of two marginal prospects the Astros sent Rodriguez back to where his Hall of Fame career began, but unfortunately for the Rangers he’s just a shell of his old self at the age of 37. Rodriguez’s numbers at the plate are almost identical to the poor totals posted by Texas catchers and he’s expected to merely split starts down the stretch with Teagarden. Not a bad stop-gap pickup, but don’t expect much.
* Having suppressed his service time long enough to push back arbitration and free agency, the Blue Jays recalled Travis Snider from the minors Tuesday. Snider had a modest .736 OPS in 188 plate appearances during previous stints in Toronto, but the 21-year-old has big-time power potential after blasting 33 homers and 39 doubles in 164 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Avoiding tons of strikeouts will be key.
* Speaking of suppressing service time, the Royals sent Alex Gordon to Triple-A on Tuesday despite the fact that the 25-year-old has logged 1,281 plate appearances spread over 314 games in the majors and we’re two weeks from rosters expanding. Gordon has hit just .227/.310/.333 in 22 games since returning from hip surgery, but it seems obvious that the move was made to push back his eventual free agency.
AL Quick Hits: Justin Morneau sat out Tuesday’s game with an inner-ear infection and Jason Kubel exited early after fouling a ball off his leg … Felix Hernandez threw seven innings of one-run ball Tuesday before the bullpen blew what would’ve been his 13th win … Dustin Pedroia has left the Red Sox to be with his wife for the birth of their first child … Jake Peavy allowed three runs over four innings in a rehab start Tuesday at Triple-A … Aubrey Huff made his Tigers debut batting fifth and playing designated hitter Tuesday … Meanwhile, the Orioles replaced Aubrey Huff by calling up former top prospect Michael Aubrey from Triple-A … Joe Saunders (shoulder) is unlikely come off the disabled list when eligible Sunday … Anthony Swarzak will start Thursday with Brian Duensing pitching Saturday following Francisco Liriano’s trip to the DL.
NL Quick Hits: Stephen Strasburg isn’t expected to make his big-league debut this season … Conor Jackson’s rehab assignment has been put on hold following more complications from valley fever … General manager Doug Melvin admitted Tuesday that the Brewers are “working on something” for Bill Hall … Gaby Sanchez is back with the Marlins after getting just two at-bats during his previous call-up … Johnny Cueto is still listed as Friday’s starter despite indications that he’d be skipped in the rotation … Chris Young is hoping to be ready for spring training after having surgery Monday to shave fraying in his labrum … Nick Johnson (hamstring) was out of the lineup again Tuesday and expects to miss several more games … Mike Hampton was placed on the disabled list Tuesday with a strained shoulder … Carlos Gonzalez batted leadoff Tuesday, with Dexter Fowler moving to the second spot … Ubaldo Jimenez tossed eight innings of one-run ball Tuesday for his fifth straight win.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.